Saturday, December 27, 2014

LINGAA and the fading of a Superstar

With so much anticipation of watching a Rajinikanth starrer, I headed to the cinemas. After buying the hiked special rates (even in Singapore!), I could not wait to see his magical on-screen performance, especially after the return from brief illness.

The movie started and after the initial euphoria died down, the theatre fell silent. Much like my bubbling enthusiasm.

Oh what a let down!

By all those concerned, the movie is a sham and hotch-potch arrangement of everything.

The Kollywood inside news confirmed to me that the project was approved by Rajini to be completed within 6 - 7 months to make up for the losses run up by his daughter Soundharya's childishly ambitious 'Kochadaiyan'.

Who could do a decent job within that time frame? K. S. Ravikumar was commissioned who, in my opinion, is a smart, commercial project leader and less of a tactful creator. Nonetheless, he ideally suited the project.

With all the internal machinations of Kollywood distribution/settlement nuances, the film was produced, dubbed in multiple languages, screens acquired, rights sold, audio launched and released world-over - all within 7 months!

Either the effort of such humongous nature showed badly or every contributor to the film took their role for granted, riding on Rajini's presence, we do not know.  The result is a 3 hours dragging, non-technical, not at all creative waste of resources.

The film has a beaten down, cliched storyline (even this reference about Tamil big star movie scripts is becoming cliched), which follows the line of Rajini doing good for the community, sacrificing all his wealth and goodwill. In the process, he gets ostracized by the same people and bound by an oath (to a non-determinant English collector!), he leaves the dam that he helped build and the community and leads a simpleton life.

His grandson, also Rajini, a petty thief, comes back after 70 years and restores the pride of his grandpa by fighting the useless looking villain, Gajapathi Babu, the local MLA.

Rajini looks so old that all the efforts to make him look younger by graphics, wigs (with that unkempt extra tuft of hair on all sides), scarves always around the neck, fancy dresses - all highlight his inability to walk fast, deliver dialogues fast, emote adequately, in short, show his age.

I felt pity, without knowing for whom.

Is he stretching himself for more money? Or more achievements in the industry? Or to further the secretly nurtured political ambitions? Or is he being goaded to accept these projects by the industry, family or friends?

Whatever it is, the writing seems clear to me. Lingaa should be his last or one among the last of the projects of an illustrious career.

Now the other non-contributing factors of the film:

A R Rahman should stop accepting Rajini projects for he had not done anything satisfactorily for him. There is reason to believe that he is one composer who needs creative space and ample time to bring out better albums - both rare commodities in a Rajini film.

The songs of Lingaa - better not to mention. A poor shadow of past and certain tunes (sung by SPB) are so lacklustre that it baffles an ARR fan in particular and a music lover in general. BGM scoring though ambles through the 3 hour film, it is unobtrusive and hence non contributory.

The Santhanams, Vijayakumars, Ponvannans, Sundarrajans... what a crowd! and what a waste!

Why would a director/casting consultant have two huge (literally) heroines, Anushka and Sonakshi Sinha paired against a weak looking, paunch-protruding hero? Both the leads look so fat and a complete misfit to the hero.

When Tamil film industry is doing a turnaround with low budget, technically solid and decent scripted movies, why would a team put this film out with all the best resources possible to be commanded?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

கார்போரேட் கொலைகள்

நீண்ட நாளாகிறது 
ஒரு கொலை செய்து 
உணர்ச்சிகளை சீண்டும் ஒரு கொலை 

பவர்பாய்ன்ட்களின் தேர்ந்தெடுத்த 
சதுரங்க விளையாட்டு 
குளிர் அறைகளுள் நாளெல்லாம் 
முகக் குறிப்புகள்  நோக்கியே 
கவனம் குவித்த வினைகள் 
மனிதம் தாண்டிய யத்தனங்கள் 
வெவ்வேறு திசையிழு உறவுகள் 

ஒரு கொலை அனைத்தையும் 
சமன்படுத்தி விடும் 
என நம்ப இடமிருக்கிறது 

சரிவர நிகழ்த்தாத 
கொலைகளால் என 
நம்பவும் இடமிருக்கிறது 

மீண்டும் உணர்வுகள் 
மீதூறும் வரை 
மொழியின் கையறு நிலையில்
வானளக்கும் சாகசங்கள் 
பொருளியல் முன்னேற்றங்கள்  

ஒவ்வொரு வினைக்கும் 
ஒரெதிர் வினையுண்டு என்பது  
ஒன்றை இழந்தே 
ஒன்றைப் பெறலாகும் 
என்பதன் சரிநிகர் 
என்று உணர்ந்ததும் 
சரியே நிகழ்ந்த 
கொலை வரலாறுகள் வழியே 

நெடுங்கால வளர்ச்சி முன்னோட்டங்களை 
குறுகியகால திட்டங்களாக 
பல்வகை கொலைகளைத் 
இப்பொழுது நீங்கள் 
வளர்ச்சியும் மரணமும் 
ஒரு பாதையின் 
இரு புறங்கள்


சற்றுமுன் பெய்த மழை

விரையும் வாகன கண்ணாடியில் 
காற்றில் ஒரு துளி 

உருவம் தேய்ந்து 
வெளியில் தடமின்றி 
எதன் உருவகம்
என்ன தத்துவம் 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

'The Silence' by Mohsen Makhmalbaf

A brilliant film with stunning visuals and a lot of symbolism!

Khorshid, a blind boy, living with his mother, has to work as a music instrument tuner struggling to make ends meet. In  his daily routine of commuting from home through a market, in a bus and a walk through scores of metal-working factories to his music shop, he often gets distracted by pleasant voices or music and goes behind the origin of the voice/music.

Though he realises that his internal penchant for music and expected perfection in its tone and pitch is making him earn scorn from his employer, he believes that he is right in going after the music. His mother's incessant reminder every day morning that he needs to get more money from his employer to pay for their rent or soon they will be in the streets, hurts him visibly as he wanders towards his music shop - but only till he hears a good piece of music!

The beauty of the scenic shots are enhanced by minimal but adequate photographic movement and the finesse of BGM for a film titled 'the silence' (almost close to the quality of live recording) are truly captivating.

The scenes where Nadereh dances when Khorshid tunes the instruments - in stunning close-ups with amazing blend-in of music are poetic! Also one can see how natural lighting and composition can be used to enhance the scope of expressions in the scene where Nadereh takes him to the spring to fetch water.

The film is also symbolic in many ways:

- the climax where Khorshid walks through the metal-working factory and commands the workers to follow a rhythm (reaching the beam of light, removing his shirt - leaves with an impactful end)
- the scenes where Khorshid wanders in search of the musician he wanted to hear, especially after being fired from the job
- the scene where Nadereh, takes Khorshid by another route to the spring to avoid a way where there is 'a person threatening girls who are not wearing scarves'. But when they pass him, he sees them playing a string instrument (a beautiful piece) with his machine gun rested away from him.

I think, these three representations capture the inner struggle of a true and budding musician who aspires to rise above the worldly trivia. The director also conveys that even when religious extremism does nothing to help the non-school going, working children like Nadereh and Khorshed, also indicating a total governmental system failure, music could be a healing medicine or bridge between the divides.

I finally figured out what was the water splashing sound that Khorshid hears whenever he plugs his ears.  When he goes after the musician, disturbed by the impending eviction by their land-lord, worse, also losing the job, he plugs his ears only to repeatedly hear wave splashing sound. When unplugs, he could hear the music and other external sounds.

The landlord everyday comes to their house in the morning by a  boat to ask for the rent and that this is the splashing noise which has filled the very sensitive Khorshid, who keeps hearing it internally when he shuts out the music!

That is, figuratively, music replaces the worries and vice versa.

A really loveable and moving film by a master craftsman!

The White Balloon by Jafar Panahi

Followed by a couple of breathtaking movies from Majid Majidi, I wanted to venture upon other renowned Iranian creators. It started a weekend with Jafar Panahi's acclaimed 'The White Balloon', his directorial debut. The crisp screenplay by Abbas Kiarostami, another Iranian great himself, complements the narration and adequate cinematography - to put it correctly, every element in required measure.

The story is about the seven year old Razieh and her elder brother Ali. On the eve of the Iranian new year, Razieh and her mother are returning from shopping as the family is gearing up for festivities. The opening scene at the market place where the mother moves into the frame nonchalantly searching for the missing Razieh also introduces almost all major characters in the film - the arguing customer of the tailor, the afghan balloon seller and the Iranian soldier, being dropped.

Though Panahi does not introduce them to the viewer nor appearing in sequence of their later reappearance or importance, this is a curious technique - which I have heard of being used in films which revolve around catastrophic themes and larger-than life portrayals.

Razieh pushes her mother to give her the last 500 toman note for her to buy the 'chubby, white, four-finned and the dancing gold fish' for new year - maneuvering through her brother. She loses the money to two snake-charmers and gets it back from them only to lose it again, this time falling into a dry sewer in front of a closed shop. She convinces the next door shopowner to help her, gets her brother to help her and others as well.

They manage to retrieve it by using the Afghan balloon seller's stick, by placing a chewing gum at the tip.

The sub plots

Razieh is symbolised as how a modern woman should be: clear, forceful, resourceful and goal-oriented.

Clear - as she know what she wants and why she wants it. The way she explains how the fish looks, why it needs to be bought and how it differs to the 'skinny' ones she has shows the clarity of thinking.

Forceful - Razieh never lets her ambition down. Right through the movie people keep telling her many negative ideas - no need to buy the fish, no money, no time... she never once listens and single-mindedly engage with all of  them, only to convince them that the fish needs to be bought, money needs to be given to her or the note needs to be retrieved from the gutter - somehow. Not once she ditches her ambition and nor she leaves guard of the money.

At one instance, she has the thoughtfulness to run to the fish seller and make him reserve the fish, negotiates with him and explains she will get back before shop-closing time and will buy the fish.

Resourceful - right from making her brother go after the next shop's owner to trace the owner of the closed shop to enlisting the balloon seller to help them retrieve the bank note, Razieh keeps looking for resources to help her win the situation. She, failing to convince her mom to give money, barters her balloon with her brother to make him get the money from mother. There are ample scenes right through the film where Panahi establishes this trait.

Goal-oriented - she never wavers from her goal, even when Ali is concerned about getting late to go back, they not able to trace the shop owner, the stranger (Iranian soldier) sitting next to her, knowing about the money inside the gutter, Razieh never once talks about mother, festivities, getting late and so on.

I believe Jafar Panahi symbolises her character with what he envisages for Iranian or more generally women. The beauty of a simple script and very adept dialogues adds a lot of texture to this neat work.

There are many minor symbolisms right through the movie but the three intriguing ones are:

Three Questions

Why is Razieh's father not shown right through the  film,in spite of being a nagging voice?

Why is the film ending on the Afghan balloon seller, rather than on Razieh and Ali?

What is the connection of the title 'The White Balloon' - the balloon seller has one remaining white balloon; Razieh wears a white dress; she wishes to buy a white gold fish.

A very satisfying film.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Macro after a long time

Luwak Coffee or Civet Coffee at Bandar Sastranegara Hussain Airport, Bandung

Afro Asian Museum, Bandung

The Floating Market, Lembang, Bandung

Seri Ater Air Panas Park - Hot Water Springs

Tangkuban Parahu - A Stunning Volcanic Crater, Bandung

Peace at D'Ream Resort - Night

Ranca Upas, Air Panas Theme Park, Bandung

Patenggang Lake. Bandung

Kawah Putih Volcanic Crater, Ciwidey, Bandung

Kawah Putih is a striking crater lake and tourist spot in a volcanic crater about 50 km south of Bandung in West Java in Indonesia.
Kawah Putih lake is one of the two craters which make up Mount Patuha, an andesiticstrato volcano (a "composite" volcano). Mt Patuha is one of numerous volcanoes in Java. Kawah Putih crater lake itself represents a relatively stable volcanic system with no records of significant activity since around 1600.



Jing'an Temple, Shanghai

And oh, the Jing'an Temple! As per the piece of history printed in their ticket, the shrine was first built in 247 AD in the Wu Kin...